8 Ways to Build Muscle Faster
If you’re reading this in hopes of finding some new pill or fad diet to help you build muscle as fast and easily as humanly possible, stop here and save yourself the time. But…if you’re no stranger to hard work and want to figure out how to get the most of your training for noticeable gains, keep reading.
Follow these eight guidelines to build muscle fast…and keep it on for the long haul.
The 8 Methods
Prioritize your sleep
Grab the low hanging fruit and do this immediately. Eight hours every night is ideal.
If you’re like most people, you’re probably not getting enough sleep. And most people who are sleep deprived don’t even know it. They think they feel fine, but they’re actually just used to operating at a low level of energy. Try this:
- Get a good mattress and pillow. In an ideal world, you’re sleeping about 8 hours every night. That’s 1/3 of your life. If you’re spending that much time doing something, why not invest in it and get yourself a great mattress/pillow? The better you sleep, the better you recover. The better you recover, the more muscle you gain. Period.
- Turn the lights off 30-60 minutes before you go to bed. Dim the lights or turn them off completely so you’re not completely wired before hitting the pillow.
- Leave your phone out of the bedroom. This one works wonders and if you’re not doing this already, I promise you it’s a game changer. When we have our phones with us, we’re going to use them. Bedtime is for sleeping, not scrolling. Leave your phone elsewhere.
Have protein with every meal
I’m preaching to the choir here, but it goes without saying that you can’t build muscle without protein. Whether or not you’re keeping track of your food, aim to have a protein source with every meal. It’s a simple (and super effective) way to ensure you’re getting adequate and quality meal replacement protein in your diet.
Get your carbs in!
What’s the point of training if you can’t eat carbs? Sorry keto-enthusiasts, but I love my pizza. Depending on how long you train and how you respond to certain types of foods, you may want to emphasize carbs before, during, and/or after your workouts.
Any performance benefit derived from consuming carbohydrates before exercise is likely a result of increased glycogen storage (2). In addition to fueling before your workouts, you can use a carb and protein-based drink during your workouts to maintain your glycogen levels. And of course, having carbs with protein after your workouts will help your muscles recover.
Set strength goals
It’s one thing to go to the gym for a quick pump or to break a sweat. It’s another thing to go to the gym with a specific goal in mind. That’s the difference between working out and training. Working out is random, kind of like driving blindfolded. Training serves a purpose and treats every individual session as a “building block” to your ultimate goal.
Setting strength goals gives your workouts meaning and intensity. If you go to the gym and you know you have to lift “x” amount of weight, you’re going to work a lot harder than if you were just winging it.
Set strength goals by using “indicator lifts” to measure your progress.
These lifts act as measuring tools to ensure you’re making gains and your program is actually working. For example, if your goal is to get a bigger chest and bigger triceps, set a bench press goal. Find out how heavy you can bench for 5 reps on Day 1 then set a goal for how much you want to bench after 10-12 weeks. This way you can work backwards and figure out what you need to do week by week to reach your ultimate goal.
You can choose whichever strength goals you want. The idea is to set them and give your workouts meaning and intensity.
Have a protein shake before and after your workouts
I borrowed this little tip from Christian Thibaudeau, who borrowed it from none other than Dr. John Berardi (founder and co-owner of Precision Nutrition). So, I guess you could say it’s coming from credible sources.
It was commonly believed you had to gorge as much food as possible post-workout to increase the effects of protein synthesis. While post-workout recovery is obviously important, pre-workout nutrition is just as essential to maximizing muscle recovery.
The idea is to have a protein shake (usually 25-30g per serving) immediately before your workout to flood the bloodstream with amino acids and glucose. As well as one post-workout shake after each workout to jumpstart the recovery process (1).
Personally, this has worked wonders. But with that being said, I’m just some dude on the internet. Take it for what it is and always consult with your doctor and/or dietitian before making any drastic changes to your diet.
Weigh yourself daily
Weighing yourself daily is a simple way to gather objective data. The idea isn’t to weigh yourself every day and develop an over-obsession with your bodyweight. It’s to accumulate a weekly average.
Since muscle is denser than fat (and since you’ll likely gain a bit of fat to go along with the increase in muscle mass), your bodyweight will increase when you gain muscle.
A lot of my clients who have weight gain or weight loss goals weigh themselves daily and plug into their own spreadsheet. The spreadsheet accumulates a weekly average, so they know if they’re going in the right direction with their diet and training.
If your goal is to gain muscle and your weekly average is increasing, awesome. But if you’re trying to gain muscle and your weekly average isn’t moving (or is going down), you need to adjust your program and/or your diet.
Do something completely different
When it comes to getting stronger, it’s all about maximal tension. When it comes to building muscle, you need to use variety.
Think back to the last time you didn’t do 3 sets of 10 dumbbell curls on arm day. Or 3 sets of 10 everything.
Your muscles need to adapt to different stresses in order to grow. If you’ve been the same shit for as long as you can remember, you need to change things up.
You can change the order of your workouts by doing “pre-exhaust sets” with isolation exercises before your main lifts. You can do more reps with lighter weights, or fewer reps with heavier weights. You can try new exercises that you haven’t done before.
Most people tend to favour their strengths and do what they’re good at in the gym. This causes a lot of lifters to go through the motions in their training and follow the same routine week after week with no progress to show for it.
If you want to build muscle fast and efficiently, do something completely different.
Track your food
If your goal is to build muscle, two things need to be accounted for: calories and protein. And if you don’t know how much of each you’re consuming, you’re leaving things up to chance.
No you don’t need to keep a food journal, but it helps. If you’ve never done it before, try tracking everything you eat for 30 days. If it’s helping you adhere to your calorie and macronutrient targets, awesome. If you think it’s a pain in the ass after a month, at least you’ll have a better understanding of what and how much you’re eating consistently. And whether or not you’re actually eating the amount you need to gain muscle. Because guess what? Most people who think they’re eating enough are really eating like birds.
Long-term consistency always beats short-term intensity. It’s always more impressive to maintain progress, rather than acquire it as fast as possible. Real progress takes time. But it’s always nice to see the fruits of your labour after a few weeks and get motivated. Try practicing these habits consistently you will gain muscle faster. Keep practicing them afterwards and you’ll hold on to that muscle mass, and continue to build more.
- Black Book of Training Secrets; Christian Thibaudeau
- Coyle EF, Coggan AR, Hemmert MK, Lowe RC, Walters TJ
- J Appl Physiol (1985). 1985 Aug; 59(2):429-33.